Most batting coaches come to a team with their own sets of drills, and Chris Chambliss is no different – except he’s reached back to the glory days of baseball to help the Seattle Mariners.
Every hitter on the team now plays pepper.
“When I came up, there wasn’t extra batting practice and some parks didn’t even have cages,” Chambliss said. “We’d play pepper, get loose and play the game.”
For the uninitiated, pepper is a simple game that can be played with two people, but more often includes four or more. In essence, one man with a bat stands in front of a group of teammates. When one throws a ball to him, he hits it back to the group.
Simple – or as complex as you want to make it. A good pepper hitter can ba the ball back to teammates standing right to left in front of him, and do it hitting the ball from the man on his right to the man on his left, in order.
“It helps with bat control, the idea is to always know where the bat head is,” Chambliss said. “Guys like Ichiro and (Chone) Figgins do it, already, but a lot of guys with ‘power’ swings don’t. This may help them get the bat on the ball a little mor with two strikes.
“We don’t want to give up at bats. Albert Pujols comes to mind – for all his big seasons, I don’t know that he’s ever struck out 100 times in a year.”
Infield coach Robbie Thompson chipped in by asking Chambliss to have his pepper-players work on their defense during the game.
“He wanted me to make sure to tell the guys to get in the proper position when they’re fielding,” Chambliss said. “Pepper gets your heart going, it works on your bat control and it’s fun.”
There’s been only one complaint – from the Peoria grounds crew.
“They don’t want you playing it on the fields, because it can tear up the grass,” Chambliss said. “We play it between fields and in the outfield.”